Written By: Suzanne Kvilhaug
As someone who used to eat brownies for breakfast and snack on Sour Patch Kids throughout the day, I know how addictive sugar can be. It feels like the more you eat, the more you need, and that’s because the sugar cravings are driven by the spike-and-crash cycle of blood sugar. Sometimes you don’t even realize how addicted you are until you try and eat less of it. Then when you can’t cut back on sugar as easy as you thought you could, it sinks in that Houston…I may have a problem here.
Everyone knows that eating sugar is bad for your mind and body, and can do serious damage to your overall health. As hard as it can be to stop eating sugar around the clock, it’s entirely possible. There was a time I felt there was no way I was going to be able to get my sugar cravings under control, but with different approaches, patience and willpower I finally did. Everyone is different, so there’s not a set list of guidelines that is guaranteed to help you decrease the amount of sugar you eat. It’s about trying a mix of things and seeing which helps you eat healthier overall and crave less sugar.
1. Eat spicy food
Adding cayenne pepper to meals really worked for me. I noticed that over time, I craved more spicy foods, and naturally my sugar cravings started to go away. Not only does eating cayenne pepper decrease your desire to eat something sweet, it helps boost your metabolism. If you’re into spicy food, try adding hot sauce or cayenne pepper to a variety of recipes to see if this helps shift your eating preferences. And this is another trick I learned –when you start feeling an urge to eat sugar, try drinking water with lemon and sprinkle some cayenne pepper inside. You kill two birds with one stone by hydrating with something healthy and fighting the urge to eat sugar.
2. Cut back on processed foods & eat more whole foods
When you start to eat more whole foods and less processed ones, all of your cravings begin to shift. I realized the more I ate primarily whole foods, the less I wanted processed food, which meant consuming less sugar. It definitely didn’t happen overnight, but with time I only wanted to eat food that was good for me and made me feel good. I started to notice how crappy I felt when I ate processed foods, and I genuinely lost interest. Again, it takes time and everyone is different. At first, the thought of cutting back on processed foods may feel like torture, but you’d be surprised at how easy it can be if you really want it. Sometimes the hardest battle is the mental part of beginning. Once you find a rhythm, things change at a comfortable pace and you likely won’t experience as much struggle as you may think.
And if you don’t know exactly what “whole foods” is referring to, it’s foods that are closest to their natural state. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Eating more whole foods is a way to consume more nutrients including vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids and fiber. Sometimes sugar cravings are your body’s way of trying to get you to eat more healthy foods and you just misinterpret the message.
3. Use balsamic vinegar
If you’re cutting back on eating processed food that means a lot of salad dressings and different ways of flavoring foods are out. Balsamic vinegar has a fruity and sweet taste, and works well on so many different recipes. I use it regularly on salads, potatoes and veggies when I prefer eating something sweeter. Balsamic vinegar helps regulate blood sugar and curbs the body’s appetite. When you’re looking at labels, be weary of added sulfites and preservatives. I have found that buying balsamic vinegar online and reading about the brand is the best way to ensure it’s high-quality without the junk.
4. Quit candy
I’m all about doing things at a slow and steady pace to get long-lasting results but sometimes the classic motto go big or go home fits. If candy is your major weakness, give it up completely and see what happens. Even eating a little bit of candy can make you want more, and the vicious cycle won’t end that way. Once you get past the cravings and the habits you’ve created, you eventually won’t want it as much. It takes some getting used to, but when you start to train your brain that candy’s not an option, you seek out healthier choices. I know that I used to eat candy on a regular basis and I never eat it now. Consider going for things like fresh dates, green smoothies and fresh fruit when the urge for candy strikes.
5. Turn to cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice that helps prevent blood-sugar spikes and protects against insulin resistance. Since it’s slightly sweet, it also helps to satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time. Cinnamon is one of the healthiest additions to any diet because it is loaded with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. You can add cinnamon to a lot of things like tea, coffee, fruit, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, oatmeal and smoothies.
6. Get active
When you can’t get sugar off your mind, remember that cravings usually only last from 3-10 minutes. If repeating to yourself “I think I can, I think I can” doesn’t do the trick, try going for a walk outside or a quick run. Getting active helps to re-energize your body, clear your mind and hopefully zap the nagging sugar cravings. If walking or running isn’t your thing, just start moving a little bit. Do whatever you enjoy to help reduce tension, boost your energy and decrease the need for a sugar “pick-me-up”.